Tennessee’s Department Of Agriculture Crime Unit And The Division Of Forestry Will Be Working Together To Try And Better The Enforcement Of Regulations In State Parks. They Will Be Specifically Be Looking For A Way To Decrease The Use Of Off-Road Vehicles In Certain Areas.
Photo: Prentice Cooper State Forest, Chattanooga, TN
Photo Credit: tn.gov
Published March 16, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
ATVs and other off-highway vehicles are frequently driven through state forests, and the overuse of this has led to damaging dirt roads and trails.
Prentice Cooper State forest in Chattanooga in particular has seen a lot of damage caused by visitors and their off-road vehicles.
State Forester David Arnold said, “When people harm our state forests, it affects visitors and nearby residents, the landscape, drinking water, and the overall health of the forest. The damage we have seen takes years to reverse so our goal is to prevent it. Ag crime special agents are working with our foresters to protect state forests and to protect citizens’ right to enjoy Tennessee’s great outdoors.”
Many roads in state parks will have a sign with a jeep on it to mark if vehicles are permitted on it.
Prentice Cooper State forest itself has a map online to show the roads where visitors can drive their recreational vehicles. Every road can be used by visitors, including those on bicycles or horseback. The stricter enforcements have come after recent damages caused by recreational vehicles on these trails.
Captain Greg Whitehead said, “The type of damage we find in Prentice Cooper is preventable. We urge people to be aware of what roads and trails are meant for OHV or ATV use. Ag crime agents are committed to working with visitors who treat the forest with care. But we also want people to know if we find visitors who are violating state forest rules, we will issue a citation which could result in fines and jail time.”
Regulations at Prentice Cooper specifically state, “Stay on designated roads. All motorized vehicles including OHVs, ATVs, motorcycles, etc. must stay on designated roads only. Roads marked with the jeep symbol are open to all motorized vehicles. Some roads are open to designated use only and are posted as such. Stay out of the woods, fields, creeks, power lines, gas lines, and right of ways.”
The guidelines also tell visitors to “Help protect the resource. Slinging gravel and making doughnuts in the roads adds to the time and costs needed for road maintenance. The forest has a very limited budget for gravel and maintenance.”
Anyone who does not follow the rules for off-road vehicles could face a year in jail or a $2,500 fine. Driving in unauthorized areas could also result in trespassing and vandalism charges.
The Crime Unit of Tennessee’s Department of Agriculture enforces the regulations in state forests. They also enforce state laws in relation to forestry, agriculture, animal health, and agribusiness and investigate wildlife arson.
The Division of Forestry’s main job is to protect the forests of Tennessee. In addition to helping promote the proper use of forests, they also help to stimulate the economy by promoting the forest industries.